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Art. III.-The Sunday Trading Bill. 1848.
The way to test whether any act is right or wrong, is to consider what the consequences would be, if everybody were to do it who has an equal right to do it. Apply this to traffic on the Lord'sday on all railways. The time cannot be very far distant when there will be a railway wherever there is a turnpike road. Our children will, probably, see this time, and, perhaps, all the present generation will not be under the sod, when railway transit, whether the engines shall be propelled by steam, air, or elec. tricity, will be quite as general as ever turnpike roads have been. The iron lines will be as familiar to the landscape as are the yellow roads. Now estimate what the interruption to the day of rest must be, when there are Sunday trains on all these lines, with stokers, engine drivers, and guards, and an amount of passenger-traffic increased by the compound ratios. If anybody has a right, irrespective of special circumstances, to travel on the day of rest, everybody has. If railway companies have a right to employ their servants in labour seven days in the week, all companies have a right to employ their servants seven days in the week. This is not said at present. But far less cogent things are said, and this will be said with force and acceptance to a people, to whom railways are familiar as turnpike roads, and Sunday traffic upon them an established custom. There is notbing which can be said in favour of the violation of the day of rest, on behalf of railways, which will not bear equally forcible application to other pursuits. Sunday railway travellers are a small class. The accommodation of the whole community with railway transit on Sundays is a matter of small importance, and the importance of it, such as it is, is constantly diminishing, as express trains, and electrical telegraphs, are increasing marvellously the transit power of the six working days of the week. The supply of the whole community with food liable to deteriorate, or perish, if not consumed speedily, is a matter of far more importance than Sunday railway traffic. Fish, flesh, and fowl, will not always keep. Sunday markets, and the Sunday labour of all concerned in dealing in them, carriers, sellers, or producers, have, therefore, advocates of keener and more confident convictions even than the advocates of Sunday trains.
According to all analogy, and all experience, the tendency of every pernicious innovation is to establish and extend itself. In communities in which only six days of labour are permitted, the people must be paid wages enough to keep them seven days. This is an inevitable necessity. The restriction secures seven days keep for six days work, for all who live by labour. Every violation of the day of rest is, therefore, a step towards com. pelling all who labour to work seven days for seven days keep. The very existence in the community of any persons who work seven days in the week, is a precedent of degradation to the whole of the working classes.
We have said, to the whole of the working classes, but, in fact, there is only a very limited amount of truth in the distinction of ranks. All families belong to the working classes. All families, in the longest periods of their existence, live by the sweat of their brow. The distinction of noble and common men, of rich and poor, of capitalists and labourers, when closely searched, is seen to be applicable only to individuals, and even to them for only very brief periods. Of our richest capitalists, the oldest established are restored to the working classes, in the persons of a majority of the members of their families, by tracing the course of three generations backwards or forwards. Most of them begin life in the ranks of the working classes, and their children, and at latest their grandchildren, return to the common lot. The distinction of mankind into nobility and commonalty-one of the most wicked of the inventions of mendoes not hold good in regard to any but a few members of the families called noble. Truthfully traced, the majority of the members of the families called noble, in spite of the privileges, monopolies, and protections, and pensions, of their order, are seen returning to the obscurity of the common life from which they only emerged for a season. The Marquis of This represents one of the most ancient families of the kingdom, (that is, four or five centuries possession of title and land,) but the men are not all dead yet, who saw his maternal grandfather with a pack on his back, as an itinerant chapman. The Duke of That, were he to call all his cousins together, would find the immense majority of them with the horny hands of rude toil. Riches and nobility are only exceptions in the histories of families, as they are in the actual state of society, while the rule is, labour for daily bread.
The working classes are the people. It follows, therefore, that an addition to the working time of the working classes would be an infliction of a seventh more toil upon the whole community, and would be sure to come, in the course of generations, as a sore burden upon most of the descendants of all the families in the land. It would be a worse thing than the restoration of feudal service to the extent of fifty-two days a year, on every man, woman, and child capable of labour.
f the de course the who
Feudal service did not demand an additional working-day, but merely some of the working-days.
The purposes to which the day of rest have been consecrated, make the iniquity of any infringement of it more apparent. Seven working days mean, that no day shall be given to the teaching of Christianity, which is equivalent to saying, that all time shall be given to mammon, and none reserved for God,
-all bestowed upon industrial advancement, and none upon moral and spiritual progress.
There is a peculiarity about Sunday trains, which causes and justifies the dissensions raised in reference to them. They are the first sanctions given by public bodies of the people to the infringement of a great and invaluable privilege of the people. By permitting Sunday trains, the people hurt themselves vitally and infinitely. We are aware, that the persons who chiefly advocate Sunday desecration are, some of them, of the class called capitalists. They are what certain humane writers describe as the beasts of prey of human zoology. They have the strength and the rapacity of carnivora. But they, in this case, seek to devour more than the bodies of their victims. Seven days of work a week mean no day for Christianity, no day for mind, no day for salvation.
Society advances in proportion as the highest moral, material, and spiritual ideas are inwrought into the institutions and habits of men. Christianity is the highest spiritual idea known to man. The first day of the week is the day of Christianity. It is the day for working into the minds and manners of men the beneficent element of the world. Now all the great things yet done for the bulk of mankind have been done by men of genius, piety, and worth, working the Divine spirit of the religion of Jesus into the laws and institutions of nations. Feudal thraldom and domestic slavery have been abolished in Europe almost to their last fibres. The day of rest was used by Christians in teaching the equality of the souls of all men, and hence the emancipation of serfs and slaves into freemen and citizens.
· The rank is but the guinea stamp,
The man's the goud for a' that— is but a lyrical and political expression of this truth in reference to aristocracy. Vergniaud expressed the same truth, oratorically, which Burns sang lyrically, when he exclaimed, “Nobility! that is, two classes of men,-one for greatness, the other for poverty,—one for tyranny, the other for slavery. Nobility, ah ! the very word is an insult to the human race. The man who admits the equality of souls cannot refuse the doctrine of the equality of men. All the glories of civilization we owe to Christianity, in the hearts of men who used the day of rest to preserve them or achieve them. Ancient literature, the philosophy of inquiry, and the love of art, were preserved by Christi. anity using the day of rest to obtain the power to preserve them. The Reformation would never have been, if there had been no day of rest. Christ's day is his fulcrum for moving the world. The Reformation was Christianity and the mind asserting the right of reason to judge for itself respecting the destiny and duties of man. The preservation of the day is more important than the liberty of worship, or of thought, or of conscience, because it is the greater liberty which comprehends them all.
Now, the question of the Sabbath-trains, as it is called, is this—Shall public companies, by deliberate votes, for their own profit and the convenience of travellers, be allowed to deprive their servants of any portion of the Christian day for spiritual culture? Is passenger-traffic a superior public interest to the absolute inviolability of the day? Are not votes sanctioning it, laying an arrest, as far as their influence can reach, upon the application of Christianity to the advancement of society ? To work the spirit of Christianity into the characters of the men, and the operation of the laws of our day, is the highest advancement of civilization. However blindly some men may be working, and however narrow their views of the applications may be, the millennial notion is no chimera, though many spirits stand amazed at it, as in the presence of an inconceivable thing; and the progress of man consists in working the highest moral and spiritual element into all the arrangements of society. It is doing as we would be done by, upon the Stock Exchange. It is preferring one another in love, in the market-place.
Every hour taken from the time of any man which belongs to this purpose, every practice which sets an example of appropriating to trade the sacred property of the soul, is therefore the infliction of the most cruel wrong upon mankind. To conceive it, compare the wrong with any of the tyrannies which have caused the glorious revolutions that have advanced and elevated the mind of man. “No taxation without representation,' was the principle of the American Revolution. What is that compared with the right of every man to a seventh of his life, for the benefit of his soul? 'Fair play to talent,' was the principle of the first French Revolution. But this is fair play to all minds. •Freedom of worship,' was the object of the puritans. But this is a question of the right to the time to cultivate the conscience. “Freedom of thought,' was the aim of the revolution of Luther. But the right now violated, is the right of
every man to continue a self-cultivating and thinking human being.
Our notions of liberty are very conventional and capricious. By allowing railway companies to establish precedents of Sunday labour, we have let in the small end of a wedge of tyranny, superior in iniquity to the crimes for which the Americans threw off the British connection, the French suppressed their nobility, and the English overthrew the Stuarts. However, the retribution is sure to come, though it seldom falls upon the beginners of the iniquities.
Undoubtedly, there is a good deal of Phariseeism in the aspect of what is called the Sabbath movement. Pious people who began life sweeping shops, and now keep their carriages, sign petitions against morning and evening Sunday trains, and on Sundays dash to church and chapels in cabs, phaetons, and carriages. Men altogether above the vanities of life like an equipage, and the display of this evidence of their prosperity, may unknown to them contribute with the salutations of brethren, the smiles of sisters, the excitements of oratory, and the charms of music, in making the Sabbath a delight to them. But the people who employ coachmen and cabmen on Sundays, have no right to raise a cry against the employment of guards and stokers. The Sabbath was made for men, and not for steam engines. Gentlemen of this description, when they combine, saying, we believe the fourth commandment to be of Divine appointment and universal obligation, we know you don't, but we combine to make laws to compel you to keep it,' deserve the keenest ridicule. They do not know their place, and must be taught it. Horses are clearly included in the benefits of the day of rest. Rails do not need it. Our friend Sir Exeter Hall, or the Rev. Dr. Formal Drone, when he employs a carriage, a pair of horses, and a coachman, groom, and livery servant, is more guilty of Sabbath desecration, than a Sunday railway traveller, by the greater number of living creatures he deprives of their day of rest. Until the reverend doctor and the exemplary baronet make the Sunday a day of freedom from toil to coachmen, grooms, servants, and horses, his platform speech and solemn petition are just exhibitions of the conscious or the unconscious Pharisee.
Every man has his own idea of his Sunday. The pious Frenchman reckons his Sunday well kept, if he attends mass in the morning, and a dance on the grass, or a play at the theatre in the evening. An Englishman spends his Sunday well when he attends bis parish church, and enjoys his dinner with his family. Some serious Scotchmen think they spend Sunday piously when they attend chapel three times, with prayer-meet
olemn petitio, servants, a day of freeactor and the